Ours is a restless planet. While we walk unawares over the remnants of massive eruptions, it is easier than ever to train a camera on Mount Etna’s latest effusions. The power of Mount St Helens and Pinatubo lives long in memory, in part because their recent activity is well documented, and in 2010 the whole world watched as Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull grounded European air traffic.
It seems odd, then, to imagine a time when volcanoes were the stuff of legend and religious speculation. It is, however, just this evolution of our relationship with Earth’s most dynamic geology that Volcanoes, a new exhibition at the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries, sets out to explore.